One of the biggest stories of the year for small business technology is (and continues to be) the rich array of options that are becoming available for point of sale (POS) management.
Everyone from Revel Systems to Groupon is dipping a toe into tablet-centered solutions. Accordingly, there has also been plenty of activity among companies that are talking up their cloud-hosted POS software and services (most often used in conjunction with tablets of different stripes), such as ShopKeep.
Over the past six weeks, three releases have signaled deeper attention to two recurring themes: tighter integration with accounting applications, notably QuickBooks; and the addition of deeper analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities that let small retailers leverage their POS information more effectively for promotional or customer loyalty activities.
Here's a recap of what's new.
The latest version of LightSpeed Web Store for Cloud, developed by the Montreal-based company of the same name, includes plenty of different features. However, one of the more intriguing updates offers deeper support for inventory tagging and interactive viewing.
That means sales associates can cross-sell or upsell by roaming the showroom and showing customers items that might complete an outfit or complement something they've already bought. They'll have access to inventory information, which helps them avoid selling items that are out of stock or, alternatively, lets them tell customers which locations might have a desired product.
"With LightSpeed, we can use the iPad on the store-floor to provide a more personalized experience for our clients," said Dakota DiSanto, director of retail at DASH, a boutique that uses the technology, in a statement about the new release.
Pricing for the service starts at $89 per month for one register, supporting up to five employees. You have to pay more for advanced reporting features.
Based in San Francisco, this startup developer unfurled two big changes in June: native QuickBooks integration and a new module for customer loyalty.
Using the new QuickBooks feature, retailers can automatically populate their accounting books with each new transaction that is completed within the Pose application. The connection doesn't require manual export and import processes, it happens automatically.
The new customer loyalty module enables small retailers to support customer loyalty programs or gift card redemption. So, for example, a boutique could sort transaction data by brands or product types and create promotions that specifically target previous customers via email, on their receipts or during the checkout process.
And it is also embracing the concept of digital gift cards (rather than the plastic version), adding features that make it simple both to issue them and to complete transactions using them.
Pricing for Pose starts at $49 per month for one workstation with unlimited products and customers, plus $19 per month for each additional register. (The company is running a 30-day free trial, if you want to dabble first.)
Around since 2010 and used by approximately 10,000 stores globally, Vend is also integrating its POS applications with QuickBooks Online; in fact, it was the first POS solution to be officially listed on the Intuit Apps.com site in mid-June.
This integration works when retailers close their registers, which triggers a daily sales and payments data synchronization between Vend and QuickBooks Online. The information lands in QuickBooks in its native format. The developer, which was founded in New Zealand with North American headquarters in San Francisco, is planning additional integrations in coming months.
There's a freemium version of this software. Otherwise, subscriptions start at $39 per month for one register, 100 products and up to 1,000 customers.